and processing basics
At Loma Coffee Co. we pride ourselves on our knowledge of particular varietals of c. Arabica & how the different varieties have evolved into the mixture of what is available for roasters and coffee drinkers to explore and enjoy. Our efforts to bring in the sweetest beans from around the world first begin with respect for the plants and humans that are responsible for our daily cups of happiness. Below are the major varietals we have encountered & we'll expand this list and information as we grow.
Coffee Arabica Typica is disputably the oldest & original varietal taken out of the Kaffa region of Ethiopia by the Dutch (covertly stolen from the Turks, who would have severed your hands if caught taking viable seeds of Typica out of the region) and brought to Amsterdam to be grown in specially built greenhouses just to propagate the species and then transplanted to areas in which the Dutch could farm them. The Dutch then propagated islands that seemed like good environs for the plant. Java and Jamaican Blue Mountain varietals came about through these first plantings. A French Naval officer took cuttings from Java and spread the shrub to other isolated islands and to Latin America, creating the San Ramon, Pache, Villalobos, & Jember (Indo Estate) varietal offshoots. These shrubs are fairly low-yielding, and have smaller, oval shaped beans. These coffees are generally outstanding, full of sweetness and clean-cup characteristics with a fairly light body.
At one point the globe had been propagated nearly entirely with Typica, but a world-wide Roya (Hemileia vastatrix) outbreak devastated crops. There are trace remnants of this golden era of coffee left in the high altitudes of Peru and in the islands of Indonesia. While closely related genetically, the processes and regional climates change the flavors in these coffees so much that it is stands as a great example of how preparation of coffee is as (or more) important than it's varietal make-up.
This varietal, also known as French Mission, is from an island off the coast of Madagascar once named Bourbon, but then re-named (and currently called) Reunion island. Bourbon cherries are very round, and come in a wide array of colors. Pink, Red, Yellow, and Orange are the most common, but there are also White and Black Bourbon, although those are extremely rare. Bourbon, like Typica, is a low-yielding coffee that takes a lot of work to pick and process correctly. When the bourbon fruit is fully ripe, the window for it's picking is very small. The best farmers say there is a one to two day window of harvest before the fruit starts to degrade and get soft and acidic. This coffee is highly sought after because of the amount of acidity and balance it brings to cup.
Scott Labs, who modified several successful coffee varietals was a group of botanists in the 1930 who tried to cross-breed and mutate strains of Bourbon and Typica in hopes of finding a superior coffee that could withstand drought and disease in Africa, which had been experiencing terrible crop failures. In the span of a decade or so, Scott Labs created dozens of hybrids and mutants, some of which are major crops grown today. They never made a dime, and it was more of a humanitarian and scientific co-op endeavor conducted by botanists and horticulturists, despite the ominous and clinical sounding name.
A Kenyan varietal, developed by Scott Labs (hence the SL badge), but also may have some Ethiopian, Tanzanian and Sudanese cross bred influence. This is a very intensely flavored bean, with a very wide bean size. It looks very much like a puffed-out bourbon. It has a highly citric and sweet cup characteristic which was the standard cupping model for coffee researchers and exporters in the 20th century.
This is a Scott Labs Bourbon creation that thrives at high altitudes and in dry conditions, as well as being able to withstand sporadic, heavy rainfall --- conditions you find in the Kenyan growing regions. This bean looks more like a traditional Bourbon, produces a pretty large yield in the right growing conditions, and produces one of the most sought after cups in the world: Complex acidity, Heavy, chocolate mouth-feel, and a very sweet, sparkling, transparent finish.
This varietal was developed originally to be the workhorse coffee of Africa. It was cross-bred with Timor, a partial Robusta, and Rume Sudan, an older Typica varietal that was extremely drought and insect resistant. It produced well, but didn’t cup out as well as the other Scott Lab endeavors. It survived on its own, however, and through the years has cross-bred with the other SL-28 and 34, improving the flavor. Grown mainly in Kenya, Ruiru-11 is pretty rare and makes up only 1-5% of the final Kenyan product.
Villalobos originated in Costa Rica and is usually one of the finest coffees from that region. It is incredibly sweet, and when roasted produces a beautiful, glossy sheen.
Catimor is a hybrid of Caturra and the Timor varietal. It originated in Brazil naturally, and then cultured manually since it produces a large bean yield and is very resistant to diseases and heavy rain. The Timor side of the genetics leads to a dirtier cup than other varietals from Brazil, but from time to time the Indonesian side adds a lot of body towards an espresso blender.
Pacas naturally mutated from the Bourbon and Caturra varietals in El Salvador, and was named after the farmer who discovered it, Senior Pacas. The flavors in this hybrid range from bright citrus to heavily floral. Typically, the higher the elevation with this coffee equates a higher cup score, which you'd expect from a dwarf Bourbon. Pacas typically has the highest cup scores out of El Salvador, alongside it's cousin, Pacamara.
A spontaneous mutation discovered in Brazil believed to be the result of lingering weak genes held over from the original Ethiopian heirloom varietal, due to its elongated shape and flavor profile. These shrubs can be considered trees since they grow very tall, have huge leaves, and gigantic beans. The yield is very low, and since the cup quality of Maragogype can be similar to Ethiopian varietals, it is extremely sought after. Roasting this varietal is a serious challenge due to its size and lack of a discernible 'first-crack.' A delicious, freaky oddity.
The son of Pacas and Maragogype. This hybrid was developed at a San Salvador University in El Salvador in the 1950s. It is a wonderful coffee grown at high altitudes, displaying huge acidity and a very well balanced cup. Like the Maragogype varietal, this is a larger bean that must be roasted very delicately. There is a fungus that is present in some of the lesser quality Pacamaras grown in lower altitudes or receive too much moisture during the drying process that exhibit a slightly offensive garlic-chive characteristic that should be considered a defect.
Originating in Brazil, Caturra is a varietal that is a Bourbon mutation. It produces a large yield and is an unusual looking shrub, very short and stubby - or much so that some farmers I have talked with have suggested it is a Bourbon dwarf, similar to Pacas. Caturra is a small, dense bean that produces a shiny luster when roasted correctly. The cup quality depends heavily on its origin: Once grown mainly in Brazil, it is now cultivated heavily in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and some parts of Colombia. It typically has lots of acidity, but lacks some sweetness and chocolate tones that traditional Bourbon has.
Catuai is a hybrid of Mondo Novo and Caturra. It looks almost identical to Caturra in size and shape, produces a large yield, but it thrives in higher altitudes. It is found everywhere in Latin American and has both red and yellow fruit. It has big acidity and a very clean cup, although sometimes it lacks body and may have an unusually heavy mouth-feel. For the latter reason this varietal is preferred for espresso extraction - either in a Blend or as Single Origin.
The Geisha varietal is basically an Heirloom Ethiopian coffee grown in Latin America. The current legend is that Don Pachi brought the plant over to Costa Rica from the small town of Geisha in southwestern Ethiopia. I have heard conflicting stories about this and have often wondered just how International law would look upon such an endeavor, but for the time being this is the story, and I’m sure Sr. Don Pache doesn’t mind. No matter how it arrived, it is a blessing that it did. It is an odd varietal, producing very elongated berries, 45-degree angled branches, spindly foliage, and only being able to produce their signature flavors in very high altitudes. The major physical indicator that I am looking at a true Geisha coffee plant is getting the sense this is a fragile understudy shrub.
The flavors in this varietal are amazing: Sparkling Tropical fruit, Jamaican Jerk, Lemongrass, Banana… and a very clean, sparkling finish. A pronounced flavor through the Citron (Citrus medica) spectrum (bitter orange, bergamot) in it, making it very tea-like. It is an amazing coffee, and amazingly expensive as well... Currently the Champagne of coffee.